All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


1 Comment

20 Dreams I have…

The abject failure of my 365 Day Challenge is a perfect example of biting off more than I can chew.

Given my moods are cycling rapidly, sleep has become something of legend and my loneliness has never felt more suffocating, the urge to run from this blog is strong. I know if I stop writing things will only get worse, so I’m trying to push on regardless.

Whilst browsing the internet the other night I came upon a wonderful blog called The Bipolar Place written by bpshielsy; the writing is wonderful, the content inspiring and the fact his name contains my favourite Loch is probably only relevant to me, but you really should swing by and take a look.

Some of his posts form a twenty day challenge that I’ve decided to undertake myself (i.e. steal). The hope being that I will be able to complete this much shorter challenge, and at the end of it, be in a more stable mindset to keep going in all areas of life.

For Day One, we look at some of my hopes, aspirations and dreams.

20 Dreams I Have

1) To get my social anxiety under control so I can actually function as a human being.

2) Go on a date with Karen Gillan. What? She might have a fetish for kinky homeless people!

3) All I’ve ever wanted in my life is something most people take for granted; to be called a friend, a husband and a father.

4) To see a multi-Doctor story in celebration of Doctor Who‘s 50th Anniversary next year.

5) To be able to get through one day without flagellating myself for something I did in 2008. My self-hate is exhausting and destructive.

6)  I want to visit Uluru. No. I need to visit Uluru!

7) Achieve item 1 from my bucket list.

8) To meet my nephew.

9) Each day I am constantly hovering over the abyss; I would love to be able to focus on living instead of surviving.

10) To live to see the day where abuse against males is taken seriously in society.

11) To be able to walk into a cinema and watch a movie version of Chuck.

12) Go to university – even though I no longer believe it will happen as I fear I’m too far gone.

13) To be able to re-read any post I’ve written on this blog and actually like it.

14) Summon the confidence to publish the post I’ve had written for two weeks but still can’t bring myself to click the big blue button.

15) To see a world where homelessness is a thing of the past.

16) Karaoke Paradise by the Dashboard Light as a duet.

17) See my sister receive the mental health treatment she needs.

18) To be hugged again (as it’s been so long I’ve literally forgotten what it feels like!)

19) To know what I did to deserve the abuse I received in 2007.

20) To forgive myself.

The problem that I have with writing about my dreams is that even though I know what I want to do, where I want to go and how I’d like my life to be, the lack of support for my MH issues coupled with the doubler header of complete isolation and homelessness, makes me believe I’ll never achieve any of them. It’s frustrating, annoying, depressing, exhausting and makes me feel like a complete failure.

But until I’m dead, I’ll keep trying to find a way to realise them.

Now. Does anyone have Ms. Gillan’s email address?

Tomorrow: 19 quotes I love…


3 Comments

Reflections on being homeless, Part 5

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

I have yet to come to terms with the last two and a half years and in spite of my current accommodation, still feel homeless to this day.

In this series I am looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through. Some memories are stronger than others, some more painful than others whilst some have been blocked completely.

Today, I try to shine a light on some of the darker months of 2010…

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4

Every life is a pile of good things and bad things (Days 274 – 365)

King’s Domain, Melbourne

In late May 2010, three weeks after my memory triggered weekend of alcohol and sadness, I was rained out.

At the time I was sleeping under a small bridge in the King’s Domain. This bridge was under a pedestrian walkway between two ponds so when it rained heavily it had a propensity to fill with water as one pond overflowed into the other. On one particular night in late May such a thing happened and I awoke to find my blanket, clothes and possessions saturated with water.

Cursing my inability to act fast I discarded my sodden blankets and spent several hours drying my clothing courtesy of the hand dryer in the nearby toilets. My agenda for the day was confirmed – I had to find a new blanket, thus I needed to visit a homeless charity.

After queuing for nearly and hour and a half I sat in the small room and asked them for a blanket. They seemed a little surprised I wasn’t asking for anything more and duly located a blue blanket that I could use before referring me to another part of their organisation who offered to find me some accommodation.

With the events of Frankston still heavy in my mind I was weary about the sort of accommodation they would find me and explained in detail my history of mental health and PTSD resulting from abuse and assault. I was told it wasn’t a boarding house, but a stable environment to live; a quiet location, only two other people, free of drugs and alcohol and impeccably maintained.

Upon arrival the room hadn’t been vacuumed in at least three decades, the window was broken with nothing protecting me from the outdoor elements, there was six people in the house and every single one of them was a user. Aside from a mattress on the floor the only furniture was a bookshelf in the corner. Feeling overwhelmed by the presence of such an item I gently caressed the upper shelf whilst imagining filling it with beautiful tomes. The moment my hand touched the wood the entire contraption collapsed painfully onto my foot and I was limping for five days.

Not an auspicious start.

A day after arriving I realised moving into this house was a monumental mistake. Walking into the kitchen to make myself some two-minute noodles I flicked on the light and “TURN THE FUCKING LIGHT OFF!”

Unknown to me a fellow housemate was in the kitchen, standing motionless in the corner. A little bewildered I didn’t respond immediately and once again, more aggressively “TURN THE MOTHER FUCKING LIGHT OFF!”

This time I flicked the light switch and plunged the kitchen into darkness. Never having used it before I stumbled to the kettle and felt totally uneasy about boiling the water with a John Bunting lookalike watching my every move from the corner. Not even waiting for it to boil properly I hurriedly filled the cup of noodles and walked at speed out of the room.

For the next two days I remained in my room.

On the third day I decided I needed some air and took myself outside for a walk. As I returned home I stood outside my ‘house’ whilst finishing my cigarette when I became aware of a shadow moving across the lawn towards me. As I began to turn the shadow stopped, and I realised it was him from the kitchen; standing in the middle of the garden with a metal pipe being knocked menacingly against his left palm.

For the two minutes I smoked he just stood there and watched over me. My heart raced, my anxiety trebled and I felt light-headed. Stubbing the cigarette out I walked slowly across the lawn without making eye contact and into my room, staying awake for the remainder of the night with my unlockable door blocked with the remnants of the bookcase.

I remained like this for a week. The presence of this man, from overheard conversations through wafer thin walls, a heavy drug user who had several convictions of rape and abuse, unsettled me to the point of psychological shutdown. I refused to leave the room to cook food (I ate uncooked pasta) or use the toilet (I used bottles) in fear of encountering this man in the hallway.

Whilst housed in Preston five months earlier I’d visited GPs, mental health organisations, wrote countless stories and articles, improved my concentration and mental functioning.

Here, I sat in a room pissing into a bottle, staring at four blank walls and talking to the mice and cockroaches that resided in my room. I think it’s a safe bet to say I wasn’t operating with the full deck.

For weeks I existed in this stationary state, occasionally walking to nearby Northland to gather cigarette butts to smoke or visit the library to catch up on Doctor Who courtesy of iView and streaming websites. My housemate’s history of violence and sexual assault had triggered memories of Adelaide which, in addition to the heavy drug use and dealing that occurred from the house, was heightening my anxiety to terrifying levels. Every night I barely slept, and when I did, they were full of lucid nightmares that had me waking in fits of screaming and sweating.

I know I should have left the house immediately, but I had been stunned into a state of inaction.

Everything came to a head in early June when, returning from a walk one evening, the John Bunting lookalike attacked me in the corridor; punching, kicking and throwing me against a wall (I honestly don’t know why) before taking what little money I had and ransacking my room. Bruised, bloodied and hurting I gathered what little possessions I could and immediately left the house, never to return.

I spent that night sitting in a small park off Plenty Road, Preston. I’d sat in the park to write many times during the period I’d been accommodated over Christmas and I couldn’t understand how things could have gone so bad, so quickly, given the efforts I’d made. The next day, after patching myself up, I walked the short distance to Merri Creek, where I camped out for the night and discovered I had a nephew, before slowly working my way back to my ‘home’ in the King’s Domain.

After having been promised a “quiet”, “safe”, “drug free” boarding house, the events of the last few weeks had eradicated my trust in homeless organisations and for the next five months I refused to visit them, regardless of how bad things became. The only thing I used was the Vinnie’s soup van, and only when I had no other option.

My Home, mid-2010 | © Addy

In the weeks after this event I descended into a nightmare realm of pain and exhaustion. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep; I hoped a tram or lorry would collide with my shattered body to end my sorry existence, my mind veered wildly and I wrote dozens of increasingly more incoherent blog posts to fill the emptiness of my “life”; I walked aimlessly around the streets blocking out all around me in the hope I would physically disappear from existence in the way I’d been erased mentally and emotionally from the minds of all.

One night in July, with tears streaming my face, I tried to cut my wrists open. Having no knives and no ability to buy one I used sticks I found in my park ‘home’. Unable to penetrate the skin I stabbed and scratched in a vain attempt to draw enough blood from my body to delete myself from the world; all it did was give me several splinters that I left unattended in the hope they would turn septic.

I had been beaten – physically and mentally – spat out and forgotten by society. I no longer had the energy or strength to keep fighting.

On the anniversary of my homelessness I wrote a blog post called There’s No Place Like Home that looked back on my first year homeless. Reading it back now, I realise how hard I was working to hide the extent of the pain I was experiencing.

The above assault was described with a mere “It was a rooming house. It fed into my mental instability. It caused a mini-breakdown. It forced me back onto the streets, where I have been since.”

My ‘stick based suicide attempt’ and subsequent mental break was shaken off with a simple “I have no mental stability” and my time in Frankston batted away with a succinct “I hated the majority of Frankston with a passion and wish to linger on it not a jot, I will however say it’s reputation is deserved.”

Reading it back now I realise how I have no memory of writing it. This period of my life has become lost in a haze of deep depression, suicidal ideation, trauma from the abuse and self-hate. I remember sitting in Fed Square laughing at the incomprehensible decision of the Australian public to vote in a hung parliament. I remember the night I awoke to find a possum sleeping on my head. I can recall with intimate clarity sitting in a motel in July drinking countless litres of whatever alcoholic substance I could find to alleviate the pain of the memories from 2007.

I remember hating myself and my existence completely and wished I was no longer here.

I Am Visible (Day 366 – 429)

Given my lack of memory surrounding vast portions of 2010 it’s impossible for me to recount with accuracy the turning point. I’ve long put it down to a combination of things:

1. My erratic mood swings.

2: Season three of Chuck; like I said here this show gave me hope through my homelessness – and this sequence is one of my favourite moments of television ever (especially 7:06 and the last twenty-five seconds)

and

3. Twitter.

The latter being something I had rarely used but threw myself into around this time, mostly because I had nothing else to do but create ever increasingly bizarre ways to kill myself (such as ‘how many soup van sausage rolls would I have to ingest to end my life?’)

What Twitter did was remind me of what it felt to be connected with the outside world again. Seeing movements such as @WeAreVisible and the work of @SydneyHomeless gave me hope that there were people out there fighting for the rights of the invisible population that I had become a part of.

Through Twitter I began talking to people again, slowly at first, but with ever-increasing regularity as time went on. Over the months I began to care about the people I tweeted with and slowly formed the belief that I could have a better future; that it wasn’t always going to be pain, assault, boarding houses and misery.

Using my experiences of writing All That I Am, All That I Ever Was as a template, I created a new blog that would see me – for the first time – venture into the world of homeless blogging. To this day it remains my personal favourite of all my blog titles; The Secret Diary of a Homeless Romantic.

My, shall we say, eccentric writing style saw the usual mix of ‘serious’ articles (Homelessness still a statistical issue for Australia; 3/10/10 ) sharing space alongside more ‘Addy’ articles (Addy’s (Slightly Tongue In Cheek) Guide to Dealing With Having A Home After Being Homeless; written 9/10/10) and as a result few people read my work, but as with the initial incarnation of this blog, it served as a means to resurrect my defeated soul.

Two days after posting my chirpy guide to having a home after being homeless I treated myself to a motel room. As mentioned in my previous post there are days that I need to take care of myself, then it was a suicide attempt/anniversary of a friend’s death, now it was the anniversary of the day I should have died; a day that saw me hike to the Dandenong rainforest for the sole purpose of hanging myself (I wrote about it here, back in 2007.)

After the year I’d had, the day wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but I knew I had to treat myself kindly as I was still in a too-fragile state of mind. After a year of assault, mental instability, suicidal desire, lack of support, distrust and black/block outs things had started to look up – all courtesy of a social network that had re-connected a disenfranchised, destroyed, forgotten soul with the world.

And with friendships blossoming and the possibility of professional support in Sydney, I had decided to head east for a fresh start in a new city.

For the first time in ten months things were taking a positive turn.

Mother and baby possum, 2010 | © Addy


Leave a comment

Hope, the greatest weapon of all

Yesterday I was reminded why I used to enjoy Twitter so much. Certainly, it provides a connection with the outside world that is sorely lacking for most homeless people, but beyond that, it provides hope.

Something that is surely lacking for most homeless people.

Whilst homeless my life was a series of parks all over Melbourne with nothing to hold on to or look forward to. The need for “something” became so overwhelming and I would often latch onto something – anything – to encourage myself to keep going.

Over the years these things ebbed and flowed. Some were fleeting, others constant.  But without these things, I would certainly still be homeless, if not something much worse.

Doctor Who

David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor

David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the constant.

My love of Doctor Who began when I was child; when my parents banned me from watching The Greatest Show in the Galaxy because it was scaring me too much.

In the early nineties, when my mental health problems were in their infancy, repeats on BBC2 enabled me to lose myself in the worlds of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker for the very first time.

When Paul McGann took on the role in 1996 my father drove me to Cardiff for a midnight opening of HMV so I could be one of the first to purchase the video. I went to school blurry eyed the next day after watching it twice through the night, ecstatic that I had done so.

In 2005, when the new series began, I was both elated and frustrated at what they had done to my show. Later that year, when David Tennant took over, I fell in love; I had found my Doctor!

I have spoken before of Tennant’s Doctor helping me in times of mental health crisis and it was my desire to see his farewell from the series that gave me the strength to keep going during those early months of homelessness. When my mind was being ravaged by the soul-destroying experience of homeless, the need to see him bid adieu is what kept me fighting.

I can still remember watching The Waters of Mars for the first time. I can still recall the tremendous connection I had with The Doctor in that episode; of the psychological impact his solitude and loneliness had manifested itself, and I knew I could keep going to The End of Time.

“But me? I could do so much more! So much more! But this is what I get. My reward. Well it’s not fair! (silence) I’ve lived too long.” The Doctor.

Karen Gillan at the 2011 Comic Con in San Diego

Karen Gillan at the 2011 Comic Con in San Diego (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spent far too much money downloading it on New Year’s Day in a small internet café in Preston, Melbourne. I can remember all the laughter, joy and the tears I shed whilst watching it. I can recall perfectly the parallels I made with my own life, given I had said something very similar to the above quote on a beach in Port Fairy in 2007.

Walking through a park, overwhelmed with emotion after watching this episode, I didn’t think I could go on. My Doctor was gone forever and a stranger was taking over.

Although never having the same power as it did in 2009, Doctor Who has remained a constant beacon of hope through the abyss of mental health and homelessness. The need to see if it will ever be as bad as The Beast Below/The Victory of the Daleks again; the desire to see my heroe’s continuing adventures; the fact I have a massive crush on fellow Invernessian Karen Gillan, but then what heterosexual male doesn’t?

Even now, knowing I hated 75% of the last series, my love of Doctor Who keeps me fighting. And because of this, and all that it has done for me, I will always – always – love this show more than any other.

Movies

Occasionally a movie provides me with the hope I need to keep going. Here are some of them:

One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill (season 3)

One Tree Hill (season 3) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In late 2010, after I became suicidal following a breakdown, it was Mark Schwahn’s opus One Tree Hill that saved me.

In a single week I watched the first four seasons back to back. I fell in love with Brooke (one of the best female characters in the history of television), Peyton (one of the other best female characters in the history of television) and developed an on-again/off-again bro-mance with Lucas’ hair.

More importantly this show reminded me of who I once was and wanted to become. As the episodes ticked away, I was reminded of my love of music, of television production, of story arcs and obsession with mind-blowing writing (e.g. S03E16 – With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept)

When I learnt of seasons five and six I broke a three-week period of not leaving my room to obtain them from the local library. When Schwahn had the guts to skip four years in time, introduce the remarkable Jackson Brundage, put together the greatest tribute to John Hughes ever and write depression incredibly well (i.e Hayley’s story arc, season 7) I knew I would love this show forever.

Now the show has ended and I refuse to watch Season Nine until it is released on DVD, because this way I will be able to keep going that little bit longer.

Chuck

Chuck Versus the Sandworm

Chuck Versus the Sandworm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t wait for Chuck. I may be the most patient man alive but I couldn’t wait for this conclusion.

My introduction to Chuck came in a hotel in Glasgow, slightly drunk and with a woman lying next to me (long story!)

After a rather full on few hours she wanted to watch something, anything, she didn’t care. Earlier that week I’d downloaded the pilot for this show for free on iTunes so we watched it; and instantly I was smitten. When I finally watched season one a year later, I was in love.

Season Two is one of the most consistently brilliant seasons of TV ever.

Season Three, watched mid-homeless after great sacrifice in a motel near Flagstaff Gardens, is the single greatest season of television I have ever seen.

After eighteen months of avoiding every single spoiler I could, I was finally able to see Season Four. Nothing could be as good as season three, but this was still better than most other things on television.

I admire so much of this show; the writing, the risk taking, Scott Bakula, the music, the style, Zach Levi, the direction, the humour, Kristin Kreuk, the ensemble, the Morgan effect. And, obviously, Yvonne Strahovski (see Karen Gillan comment above!)

So when I moved into the unit I now occupy and was kindly given a computer by my counseling organization, I surreptitiously downloaded season five from internet sessions at the library. A personal treat to reward myself for all I’d been through since that emotion filled day in Glasgow.

Even now Chuck provides me hope to keep going. If I wish hard enough perhaps there will be a movie.

My Writing

I know I’m not the greatest writer in the world. But ever since I was a young boy I’ve loved doing it. From the early years of Neighbours (The Movie) and Indiana Jones and the Sword of Excalibur though to the later years of I, Georgina and The Inverness Chronicles writing is something that has assisted in everything from self-worth and confidence through mental health and homelessness.

Even though I’ve barely been able to write since I, Georgina (Inverness, 2009) there have been times I’ve settled down under lamps in parks and written whatever I could. Most of it was terrible; some of it not too bad.  On the occasions some of my homeless-era work was published online (not on my blogs) I was buoyed to continue onwards. To keep striving to achieve all I desired in this area of my life. As I still do today.

My Nephew

Woody Woodpecker and his niece and nephew, Spl...

Woody Woodpecker with his niece and nephew (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of all of the above my nephew has provided me with more hope than anything else.

He was conceived whilst I was homeless, born whilst I was living in parks, has lived the first two years of his life with me being a Chuncle (Crazy Homeless Uncle) rather than an Uncle.

I’ve never met my nephew. I may never will. But he has kept me pushing onwards for two different reasons.

In much the same way as my need to prove to some of my old friends I’m not the worthless piece of human excrement they decided I am – I want to be a man my nephew can be proud of.

Someone he can look up to and say ‘that’s my Uncle!’ instead of ‘that’s my Uncle?

But more than anything, I want him to grow up in a world where the homeless are treated with respect.

A world where the homeless are treated as the human beings they are instead of stereotyped, abused and forgotten as they are now.

We can but hope.

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.”
Martin Luther King

Note: This post was edited on 21/5/12 after reading The Troll of Twitter Feeds (by Carey Fuller)

My original post quoted from the blogger discussed in the above piece and is someone whom I had not encountered before. From this, and other research conducted, I do not wish to associate with him and removed the links to his work from this piece.

I have long supported Mark Horvath and the amazing work he does in the field of homelessness. When I first used Twitter in 2010, his work and support of the homeless gave me exactly what this post is about: hope for a better life, and hope for the end of homelessness.